COVID-19 health and safety measures for in-person events

Current precautions to protect against COVID-19

A man and a woman in business casual attire and wearing blue surgical masks are bumping elbows while social distancing. They are smiling from behind their masks as they greet each other. Photo by Maxime on Unsplash

Protecting the health and safety of all attendees, organizers, and the broader community is of the utmost importance to the Committee to OrganizeUW (OUW).

At the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, we moved to a 100% digital drive. Since then, as the situation has shifted, we have slowly begun holding more in-person events in accordance with public health guidelines. In the meantime we are also still holding various digital events to ensure the maximum number of people can take part, no matter their geographic location.

This post outlines the current safety procedures in place for all OUW in-person events, along with the applicable local and provincial public health restrictions. All policies apply to all attendees/visitors as well as organizers/hosts. Please take note of these measures when deciding whether to attend, planning your visit, and before you depart on the day of the event.

Updated: July 15, 2021

Table of Contents

1. Know before you go

Before the event

Do not come to the event if you:

  • have any potential symptoms of Covid-19,

    • If you have developed new symptoms that are not due to a prior medical condition, please complete the 2-5 minute COVID-19 self-assessment, which includes the latest official guidance on symptoms, when to get tested, etc.
    • If you feel at all unwell or “off”, no matter your specific symptoms, please stay home until you feel well again and only go out when necessary.
  • are awaiting a COVID-19 test,

  • have been notified that you were exposed to COVID-19,

  • have any other reason to think you could have COVID-19,

  • you have travelled outside of Canada in the last 14 days,

  • you have been ordered by Public Health, Border Services, or anyone else to self-isolate or quarantine (even if you tested negative), or

  • you have COVID-19 (even if you wear a mask or have been vaccinated)

If you have not already done so, we recommend downloading the Covid-Alert Mobile App. It is free and the exposure notifications are most helpful when you are in public and interacting with people outside of your household.

At the event

  • Physical distancing of at least 2m (~6.5'+) must be maintained at all times.

  • Masks that cover the nose and mouth must be worn at all times.

  • A maximum of 50 people outdoors and 15 people indoors (including organizers) will be permitted at an event at any one time, or however many fit in the space/area while maintaining social distancing, whichever is less.

    • If this limit is reached, we will do our best to still speak with you, such as by moving a safe distance away. However, if this is not possible (e.g. it is too crowded), we will have to ask you to return at a later time when it is less busy or arrange an individual meeting with you another day.
  • Hand sanitizer will be available and any frequently-touched surfaces will be cleaned often (e.g. pens).

  • You may sign a union card using your own mobile device, a paper card, or an organizer can use their device to fill out the web-form with you.

Please note that we reserve the right to ask anyone to leave an event if safe interaction is not possible. Harassment or threatening language will not be tolerated under any circumstance, The safety and well-being of our organizers and visitors is of the utmost importance to OrganizeUW, and must come first. We are happy to speak to you via another medium of your choice, such as email, phone, or video call, if in-person interaction is not possible, and respectful communication can be maintained.

2. Questions & answers

Are public events and social gatherings currently permitted?

Yes. According to Region of Waterloo Public Health (ROW-PH):

“Ontario is currently in Step Three of the Roadmap to Reopen. Social gatherings are allowed as follows:

  • Maximum 100 people for outdoor gatherings
  • Maximum 25 people for indoor gatherings
  • Indoor and outdoor dining with capacity limited to permit physical distancing of two metres; no limits on the number of people per table
  • Indoor sports and recreational events open with spectators permitted at a maximum capacity of 50% or 1,000 people (whichever is less) with restrictions in place
  • Outdoor sports and recreational events open for unseated events with spectators permitted at a maximum capacity of 75% or 5,000 people (whichever is less) with restrictions in place”

Due to the precautionary principle (and now also the Delta variant), we have carefully designed our plan for in-person events to meet, and where possible, exceed, guidelines from ROW-PH and the Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC). This is why we have set lower limits (see above) for gathering sizes than the maximums mentioned above.

Is it safe to attend public events and social gatherings? How can I reduce risk?

As more and more people in Canada become vaccinated, the Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC) released new guidelines on June 25, 2021 to help make evidence-based decisions to reduce risks at gatherings:

See link below image for text-based version:

Depending on the event, we believe one of the following scenarios will best fit the situation at OUW events:

Zoomed in screenshot with excerpt of two boxes from the table in the above document. From the left-hand column labelled “SETTING OR ACTIVITY (Always follow local guidelines for gatherings and public health measures)

As you can see, even for outdoor events, PHAC still strongly encourages masking in a small mixed-household/mixed-vaccine-status grouping as an added precaution. Because we do not know every person who attends an event's specific vaccine status, health situation, or any vulnerabilities they may have, we feel it is most prudent to require masks at all of our events, in addition to the physical distancing mandated by the bylaw in Waterloo Region. For all events, preference will be given to hold events outdoors wherever possible. For any indoor events, extra attention will be paid to ventilation when choosing an indoor location to hold an event.

The Microcovid calculator: a tool to help calculate and estimate risk

We know that the pandemic situation is constantly shifting, and there are so many other factors that can make it really overwhelming to try and sort out how to balance safety and being able to enjoy as many daily activities as possible. No situation can ever be guaranteed to be 100% safe.

One handy tool that may be able to help is a calculator published by the Microcovid Project, which “lets you estimate COVID risk and find effective safety measures for customizable situations. Examples: how risky is a trip to my grocery store? What's the safest way to see a friend? How much would it help to wear a better mask at my workplace?” It pulls in data from your local geographic area to increase accuracy based on local pandemic conditions, and has been updated to take into account vaccination rates, ventilation, and the Delta variant too.

If I am vaccinated do I still need to wear a mask and social distance?

Yes. Region of Waterloo Public Health (ROW-PH) advises that “maintaining physical distance of at least two metres between yourself and anyone outside of your household is required” for all residents. Furthermore, “wearing a face covering in enclosed public places and on transit is required by the Face Covering By-law and/or the Code of Use By-law. Face coverings are an additional tool to help slow the spread of COVID-19. Even if you have no symptoms a face covering can help contain your own respiratory droplets when you talk, cough, or sneeze.

In addition, there are still many very good reasons why masking and physical distancing are important safety measures to maintain right now:

  • Currently about a quarter of people in the community have not yet had a first dose of a vaccine, while over 1 in 3 total are not yet fully vaccinated with two doses (data as of Aug 10, 2021).
  • The Delta variant of COVID-19 is now dominant ( 93.4% as of Aug 10) in Ontario. It is much more transmissible (~2.25x) the original SARS-CoV-2 strain and recent research indicates it may have a higher potential to be spread by vaccinated individuals, while a single dose provides much reduced protection against infection.
  • Epidemiological trends in other countries indicate it may pose an increased risk of severe outcomes for children under 12, who are not yet eligible for a vaccine in Canada.
  • People from marginalized or vulnerable groups may not have had the opportunity to get a vaccine yet, be unable to get vaccinated due to medical conditions, or gain less protection from a vaccine due to a lowered immune response.
  • Finally, it is still unknown exactly how long immunity from vaccination, infection (including with different variants), or a combination thereof, will last.

All in all, this means that around 200,000 people in Waterloo Region are still susceptible to getting COVID-19 and experiencing severe outcomes (hospitalization or death). This does not take into account either the risk of “long Covid” in general, or “breakthrough cases” in vaccinated people.

In sum, distancing is required by law, and even though wearing a mask outside is not strictly required, it is still strongly recommended by public health experts. It is also the common sense thing to do, and helps OrganizeUW reach our goal of meeting or exceeding current public health restrictions based on the latest high-quality information and best practices.

I am not (yet fully) vaccinated? May I still attend?

Yes. As long as you follow the guidelines on this page as well as all public health requirements, and are respectful of other attendees and organizers, all are welcome to attend our events. We will not ask you your vaccination status.

I am unable to wear a mask for health, disability, or other private reasons. May I still attend?

Yes. If you have an accessibility need that impedes adhering to the above guidelines, we would be happy to discuss a way to accommodate you. Please reach out to us by email or on our social media, or come in person to the event, stand as far away as it is still possible to communicate, and let the organizer know when you first arrive that you are not able to wear a mask.

We will not ask for medical information or information on your reasons for needing an accommodation. Instead we will focus on how we can work together to make our event inclusive for you while keeping everyone safe. For more on Face Coverings and the Bylaw visit here.

If you are able to wear a mask, but prefer not to for whatever reason, we ask you to please consider engaging with us in another way, e.g. digitally through our social media or email, or by attending a virtual event.

Thank you!

Thank you in advance for doing your part to adhere to these guidelines when attending OrganizeUW in-person events. We truly appreciate everyone's cooperation and patience as we do our best to organize for better workplace conditions at UW. The need for better conditions has only become more pressing as the pandemic drags on.

Only by working together can we help ensure that people stay as safe as possible from COVID-19, and that we can make UW a better workspace for academic workers in the near future.

Committee to Organize UWaterloo
Committee to Organize UWaterloo
supported by CUPE

The Committee to Organize UWaterloo is a grassroots campaign to unionize the academic workers at the University of Waterloo. The campaign is supported by the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE), Canada's largest union.